They Know in the Forest: An ethnography of forest guides in Andasibe, Madagascar

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Carol Carpenter
Essay Abstract: 
Forest guides in Andasibe, Madagascar combine knowledge from many sources, both scientific and traditional, global and local, when they lead tours of the forest for visitors from around the world. I trace the different strands of knowledge to their sources, share the voices of the guides and uncover, in the process, the overarching global-local dichotomy—scientific knowledge from researchers and Google being global, and stories from elders and close observations of the forest being local. Guides exist between these two realms and they take knowledge from each and combine it for tourists. Guiding is their livelihood so this combination of knowledge is both economic and personal. As economic actors, their knowledge is “cultural capital.” They act as brokers of two opposing knowledge sources. As people who take joy in learning and sharing, they are in turns translators, storytellers and teachers.